Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 6 - Episode 9: "Subterranean"Reviews:
SubterraneanReviewed by: Neal Bailey
In keeping in line with Kung Pow:
I NEED GOPHER CHUCKS!
But anyway, yeah, our villain tonight is a gopher. Our issue tonight is illegal immigration.
Inconsistency as a rule doesn't fail me in this episode, which is rife with continuity and logical failures. Failures of character, failures of simple consistency.
In the end though, I have the nagging feeling that this was a better episode than most are giving it credit to be. Mostly because in my gut I feel it accomplished more than it did. It only got two and a half pages of notes, it attempts to cover some ground that needs to be covered, and it's got a pretty decent ending.
On the other hand, I know I've got a ton of things to type out about this episode, given that the beginning premise of the show is that it's suddenly gone from November last episode (sigh) to the middle of summer, complete with a turning fan in the front room visible halfway through.
So I'll make the decision as I typically do, through critical analysis...
We start out with a series of stereotypes, a bunch of migrant workers in a field working for an overbearing white dude who abuses them. It's blatant, a stick to the head for the issue, but it's kind of hard for the writers to confront this issue in this fashion without being blatantly stereotypical. You portray the actors as too dirty, then you're saying they're dirty migrant workers, which is guaranteed to offend, but if you put the main characters into a scene of complete normalcy, you run the risk of total implausibility. Either way, you have to deal in stereotype, which is one of the reasons why I wouldn't have chosen to confront this on a program whose typical biggest problem is Lana's purse size and how Lois reacts to it.
However, at the same time, were I given a television show, that's exactly the kind of thing I'd want to confront and rub in people's faces, so I have to say that I encourage that kind of exploration. Heck, most of my problems that Clark would confront would spring from a real human issue like this.
The problem is, try as they might, Javier is a stereotype, and an overly perfect one. It's kind of like the poor kids who drive new cars, only somehow a little more odd. He's a kid from Mexico, and he's just arrived, but he can speak perfect English, from television. It's funny, because my buddy Daniel in Venezuela, he talks to me all the time, and I've spoken with him in person, and he learned, through television and an intense intellectual curiosity, to speak without any accent at all. The man is brilliant with the language, and outdoes most of the people who write me emails with bad grammar. Heck, he outdoes me because I'm descriptive.
But it took him years. That's my point. And it should. I've dove into this language with the passion of a huffer in a paint store, and I'm still discovering enunciations I can't quite nail.
Again, it's the Catch-22. If he speaks in broken English, he's a negative stereotype. If he speaks in perfect English, he's a useless stereotype.
Stereotype isn't a bad thing, despite what politics would have you believe. Nor is discrimination. It's POORLY APPLIED stereotype, racism, that fails the would-be appropriate discrimination. For instance, if you didn't have a stereotype for how American people reacted to "Hey, how ya doin'?" we'd be emotionally crippled in meeting people. And if you don't realize that there is a palpable physical difference between black and white people (not good, not bad, just a racism of discrimination that doesn't involve oppression), you'd end up looking like a fool, because there is a difference in how people are treated based on the color of their skin, and to not acknowledge that isn't racist, because you're not acknowledging a race, but it is foolhardy. That's discrimination, but not bad discrimination, racism.
On another level, if we weren't all discriminating, this story wouldn't have any impact on us, because on a base level we have to look and say, "Yeah, economic conditions in Mexico suck, and by and large that forces people with brown skin to come to our society, or maybe we invite it, or maybe that's an issue we should cover."
Which wouldn't happen if the people immigrating weren't racially different, because then we wouldn't know the difference. I suppose maybe if they were all white the difference would be speech-wise, but it's not.
My point is not that racism is a bad thing, but that discrimination, the act of differentiating what makes the term illegals what it is, and what makes American mean what it means, is not necessarily a bad thing unless used to racist ends.
Like the questions raised, say, when Bow Wow is a basketballer without a real character rationale, and follows white people around in the shadows in a hoodie trying to kill them.
Here they attempt a rationale. They're migrant workers. But the kids are fake-dirty, portayed as the "acceptable" Mexican, if you will, the one that speaks perfect English, is articulate, and is concerned with family. That's almost as bad as the Bow Wow attacking black person, but because it's reflecting positive, it's supposed to be okay. But then, Neal, Mexican families DO have a strong tie to family, by and large! And some really do strive to speak perfect English.
Not my point. My point is that surface examination does not yield dynamic insight. I can write a black guy who likes rap music and lives in the inner city and wears FUBU into any scene I want. Look, he just walked into this review:
"Yo, Malique! Isn't racism bad?"
"Yeah, fool! Racism is real bad! I hate it. People shouldn't look at me for the color of my skin! True dat."
Now look! He's making a positive message. And it's a message many black people espouse. And there really are black people who wear FUBU and say "True dat." and who are named Malique.
However, just in case you haven't latched onto the oblique angle here yet, my point is that while the above interaction isn't technically racist, it is assumptive, it promotes a side of race relation that is by and large acceptable to the broad and discriminating (in that bad way) American public, and in terms of solving the problem of racism (or in this case, illegal immigration), it solves nothing.
Even if you make Clark pro illegal immigration, because honestly, he only comes to this conclusion by necessity of plot, not courage of conviction.
It's like Heroes. I got into this discussion in chat, and I brought it up because it relates. I watched the show, and everyone seems to believe it's the best show to ever come down the pike. So far, I'm not really impressed, for the same reason I'm not impressed with Clark's stand of heroism in this show. The characters choose their path out of a plot necessity.
Saving a cheerleader to save the world is noble, if it doesn't save your neck. If you're doing it for altruism, it makes for good character. Risk your life to save a stranger, that's courage of convictions and goodness. Do it because you have to? That's another think. Nikki is supposed to be a good mom because she sacrifices her own life to protect her kid. That's what you're SUPPOSED to do! It doesn't take courage of conviction, that's just your responsibility! Other characters, like the politician, simply shirk their responsibility the power offers. The cop is sympathetic because he's going after Sylar, and Hiro steps up to take his duty, but for the most part the show is filled with selfish people who never do anything unless they have to in order to save others or out of a personal obligation. There's also, like Smallville, a ton of internal inconsistency, but it's also forgiven, largely like Smallville, because of very cool cliffhangers and a strong plot (though Smallville has lost that over the last few years).
Bringing it back, so we have a show that's trying to do a good thing, bring sympathy to the plight of people who want a better life and are getting killed to do it (a real issue of illegal immigration), and we're trying to characterize Clark as an essential humanist, because he does what he can to ease suffering.
The critical failure, I'm realizing through examination, is that it uses a nearly racist stereotype of the angel-whore as applied to Mexicans, these perfect innocent kids (despite being criminals), and it gets to its point by taking an American icon and making him sanction breaking the law. They make Clark come down on yet another issue that is potentially offensive, and that alienates people.
People like me.
People gave me all kinds of problems because I pointed out that though I believe in pre-martial sex (heck, I don't even believe in traditional marriage or relationships), I don't want that superimposed on Clark Kent, because he's supposed to be the moral arbiter for everyone, the guy who does right in all cases by everyone, and the way you do that is by not making him come down on hotbutton issues, but skirt them in a diplomatic way that saves people. You might argue that in this case he does that, first saving the people from danger and then trying to get them into the country through legal channels, but honestly, it's just not as easy as they make it out to be in this show.
Or even if it is, the point is that there are many people that quite passionately believe that any risk assumed by coming into this country illegally (including being taken advantage of by gopher white farmers with hick attitudes) is assumed in the danger of illegally immigrating, and who would be alienated from Superman because of the fact that Clark doesn't defend the law, which is a part of "THE AMERICAN WAY," which many associate to be part of Superman's ultimate creed.
And at that, the idea of this creed, that the American Way of justice through rule of law and democracy, is usurped when Clark forgets the minority viewpoint. Or the majority viewpoint.
For instance, this show doesn't examine the harm that illegal immigration does, or make Clark confront that harm. It's essentially a rah-rah illegal immigration depiction. There are issues raised by illegal immigration that remain untouched here. Dual languages in a formerly homogenous country (is that a good thing? Don't know, but it's an issue that wasn't raised). Burdens on law enforcement and welfare and health care.
What stopped this show from being about farmers being held on the farm, race irrespective? Well, because they wanted to touch a hotbutton issue, chose to consciously, and then did nothing with it save portray the fake, arbitrary anyman illegal immigrant, which is more of a disservice than a confrontation of the issue.
Which is intellectual cowardice, plain and simple, and capitalizing on American prejudice to make money. I resent that personally, as a writer who likes to confront tough issues with tact and in depth.
To say nothing of the white hick farmer who is stereotypically racist and abusive to workers. Largely the reality is a mixture of the two, people who want good, cheap labor, and are willing to exploit people to do so. Or maybe honestly believe they're doing people a favor by getting them to America and keeping them alive. I've known many people who take Clark's position.
What's my position? I believe in personal responsibility for actions. I lament when people stay in a country like Iraq and then have the audacity to complain when their children die in a war they know is coming, so I believe it a burden on the parents of people living in a county with a depressed country like Mexico to attempt to make their way to a better life, and America is their best option for that. And if the urgency was there, I know I would illegally immigrate.
Regardless, it's against the law here, so I can't condone it, either, I can only hope the law changes.
But bottom line, would I push that on Superman? NEVER.
Now that the elephant is confronted, back to giggles and inconsistency.
Anyway, as I said, though we established that it's Thanksgiving, it's apparently all sunny and harvest time in the fields. I was informed that potato farming can occur at any time in the year, but clearly by the weather indicated we've just jumped back in time. So we started by jumping six months, now we're going back three. Sigh.
There's also the fact that it's thirty nine and a half minutes of magic, cut down from your average show by two minutes. So more ads! Joy! I needed my "geek sneak peak" as they called it, like a hole in my head.
I actually started watching Buffy to give it a fair shake, and it was 45 minutes long. I started realizing, yeah, we're really getting gypped on story line. Twenty seconds of every minute of the program is ads.
WRITE AROUND IT. Greed is the only reason this would happen.
The villain is very much like the Jeepers Creepers guy in terms of initial tone, and that wasn't just me thinking that, Sara, watching next to me, saw that too. This guy's power is that he can...burrow? So that makes him essentially super strong and super fast in terms of digging. So why does he go underground, why doesn't he just stay above ground? A bit odd. There's no special reason he'd be underground, which is something decent writing would have taken care of.
He's also a ripoff of the black cloud in Lost, more specifically.
We start with Lana and Lex, talking about the marriage offer. Lex swoons, oh, she makes him so emotional and illogical!
Crap. He's still cool and calculating, as shown by the last scene. Bad characterization, internally inconsistent.
Lana hasn't decided on the marriage offer yet! Ooooooh!
Crap. Until sweeps he hasn't.
Lana, why don't you go to Amsterdam, so you can come back and marvel at what it's like to be rich for the first time despite living with Lex for six months!
Crap. Not three episodes around she was ordering cronies around like Cleopatra...or more aptly Caligula.
There's more later.
There are little moments of brilliance in this episode (like the ending) that made me really turn my head. When Clark drives into the farm and nonchalantly waves, I really buy it, it's a strangely good character moment.
Problem is, it lasts four seconds out of a forty minute show.
Clark meets this kid, who's poking through the barn instead of trying to run away. Apparently this kid is too dumb to go to the police even if it saves lives. Priorities, priorities. On the one hand, there's deportation, and saving the lives of all the illegal immigrants. On the other hand, there's the chance to be with his mom, while the immigrants keep dying. So to promote sympathy with the character we go with...
I WANT MY MOMMY.
To quote the horse, "No sir, I don't like it! Not one bit!"
Cling tenaciously to my buttocks as we further on:
Clark hears this kid's story, and he has two choices. One, deportation, and saving the lives of all the illegal immigrants. On the other hand, there's the chance to unite this kid with his mom...you know the bit.
Clark's in the odd position of not having any evidence when the boy does, but nonetheless, an anonymous tip would do 'er. Which is what Superman would probably do. That way the kid wouldn't get deported but the problem would be solved.
Instead, he goes to see the guy to make sure people are dying, wasting time in which people could be dying. He finds a group of immigrants who speak Spanish to him. Clark wins the dumb as Clark award, going, "I'm sorry, I don't know what you're saying!"
Which he later does again with the same group of guys. Neither try sign language.
Here's where the illegal immigration soapbox gets preachy and a bit racist. At the Kent farm, they are aghast when a deputy arrives. He says, I KID YOU NOT:
"Well, a motorist saw a Latino boy running across highway 54. He might be an undocumented worker."
Because, you know, logically speaking for the plot, if the kid is a Latino, he might be an undocumented worker if he's crossing the street.
They then take stereotypical Mexican character X, the deputy, and have him gush about how illegals should come into the country legally like his parents did. This is the token "other side" gesture, to make the other side of the story known. Problem being, he's vilified for basically enforcing the law, which isn't really showing the other side.
And plus, they don't go to incredibly great lengths to find people as this officer does on very little evidence, against he word of a senator, and when there are other, more important things to be doing. They'd likely send out someone involved in deporting, perchance, I'm guessing.
But arbitrary drama, arbitrary drama, blah blah blah.
And then, for all the times we've had an effect cut because the budget has been cut, we have a scene of Clark actually using the expense of the x-ray vision effect to find the kid in a cupboard that's standing open three feet away. Arbitrary, and sad, because that effect could have been used to make a shoddy episode better.
I was curious as to why Clark didn't x-ray the ground when first visiting ole man McNally, and took a note. He used it soon after, though, the next time he goes, and finds all the bodies. It's illogical that he would wait that long (it's not an effect to Clark, it's something he can do very easily and would likely do on a fairly constant basis just as we without thought use depth perception, as it's part of our native biology and useful in many ways.
Clark then calls the Sheriff, who comes and discovers the bodies.
I mean, if you're not thinking, that'll go right past you, which they're anticipating, but honestly, imagine the phone call. And we know Clark made the call in person, because the sheriff then allows him on the scene and talks to him.
"Hey, Sheriff! There are bodies in the ground at Ole Man McNally's farm!"
"How do you know this?"
"A kid told me!"
"A kid? What kid? Let me talk to him."
"He, uh, he went away! And I'm not hiding him."
"Clark, I'm going to trust you, because you are always around dead bodies. You must know how to smell them."
"OKAY, OKAY! I'M HIDING AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT! What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?"
"That was a poor choice of joke. And nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. They've been deported."
"I'm Clark Kent. Dur!"
"We'll send out a forensics team and have the ground completely excavated in half a day without disturbing the bodies in any way from their macabre poses and leaving them open for anyone from the press to photograph."
"Groovy! I like pie!"
So they arrest Ole Man McNally, or try to, on the basis of bodies being found on the farm. This before evidence is gathered, but apparently Ole Man McNally is stupid enough to confess. "Yew tater pickers gonna pay!" (PTUI!) he cries, diving into the ground.
Ole Man McNally is crazy. Just like Hooch. He really is crazy.
Because as we all know, an illegal immigrant is a semi-clean looking person in decent clothes who speaks with no accent and only wants to be altruistic, but white farmers are hick racists who will murder at the drop of a hat.
The cops also fail to seem shocked that a man has dived into the ground, and later are not searching the property at all when Clark and Javier return and have their fight. Convenient.
And hey, the farmer mentions the kid Clark had with him, but the cops don't question Clark? Particularly the one who went to such great lengths to violate his privacy rights?
Then, the WTF moment of the episode before the king daddy WTF moment. Clark bursts into Lex's mansion and accuses him of being behind the deaths. Why? Because he owns the farm. Uh, yeah.
Lex says, "I told you to stay out of my house." That's another moment of rare brilliance. They actually remembered a plot point.
Clark persists in accusing him, and then threatens to tell Lana that he's behind it.
What point does this serve? It's arbitrary adversarial attention between Clark and Lex that makes one sympathetic to Lex and angry at Clark. Banner job there, guys.
And hey, let's make it look like Clark's still trying to protect Lana for no apparent reason to the point of absurdity. She knows a guy who owns a piece of land where people died. Let's crucify him!
In the end this is supposed to be justified, like Lois exploring the blackouts in Superman Returns, because it all turns out well. That doesn't make his (or her) actions laudable or logical or in character.
Apparently, Chloe is now living at the Talon. When this happened, or why, is beyond me. Last we knew, after Dark Thursday she moved in with Lois temporarily in order to wait for the college to be put back together. Now she's living in Smallville, commuting six hours a day to Metropolis for stories, as she's a full-fledged reporter (huh?) with front page stories, and Lois is nowhere to be found. (Making a movie).
Chloe is now not in college then? She's not taking journalism classes? None of the mains are in college any more? Grand example for kids. Don't go to college! Money and a good lifestyle will just fall on you! Congrats, kids, you're welcomed into the fold of learned helplessness!
Cut to a commercial for Eragon, where I am assured most pointedly by a shill actor that "If you like Smallville, you'll LOVE Eragon!"
Because, you know, a drama about farm kids in the mid-west that devolves occasionally into comic book chicanery is very much like a children's book story about dragons and dragon riders in an epic battle for...something.
Sigh. That's why we have a thirty nine minute show, to shill that crap.
So anyway, Ole Man McNally spouts some racism then disappears into the ground. Neal's head snaps up. "Uhhhh..."
And yeah, it's pretty ridiculous that this guy can drag people under the ground and pursue people at high speeds under the ground, and yet for some reason he let Javier escape. Think about it. BOOM! The kid's buddy is under the ground. The other kid stops, screams for his friend, then runs away on foot.
Ole Man McNally is not only crazy, he stoopid!
Clark starts talking to Chloe in the Daily Planet, where she informs him that logically, being buried under a mountain of Kryptonite, as Ole Man McNally was, gives you the power to burrow like a human rototiller.
After I stopped vomiting bile I saw Chloe check a police scanner, which indicated that a Hispanic male fitting the description was caught trying to stow away in a bus.
Clark immediately bolts to superspeed in the crowded bullpen of the Daily Planet. Sigh.
Before this, Chloe lost the kid. I almost forgot the scene, I even spaced and forgot to write about it before I just saw it again reviewing the tape. She bonds with him, Jimmy comes in, and acts like a horrible racist to comedic effect, talking slowly and loudly to a guy who speaks perfect English and making a fool out of himself with the assumption that he must not speak English if he's...fill in the blank.
What this adds to the narrative, I don't know. I think it's an attempt to be funny, or to actually give Jimmy a purpose. He has neither on this show. I don't really laugh at what he does, it's too forced. Jimmy completely out of context is just plain a waste of time. He's defined by being around Clark and Lois, and they're not exploring that at all, some nine episodes in. I don't even think they've been in the same room together.
So it passes right by me. It's boring.
The whip cream joke, people wanted me to comment on that. Okay, they're making Chloe out to be oversexual after she burdened herself with the regret of sex commentary, and yeah, Jimmy is older than Clark and bumping uglies with his best friend. There's not much you can say to be against that unless you think a healthy sexual appetite is bad for Chloe (I don't think it is, and as she's not an iconic character it's irrelevant), or detrimental to the character of Jimmy, but Jimmy's always a horndog. Where the characterization fails is that he's always requited because he's totally immature, not this romantic hotshot who's kicking Clark around on the show.
Javier is stuffing himself into a bus storage compartment. Here's the continuity.
Clark receives word on the scanner that there's a boy stowing away in the baggage compartment.
When he gets there, the baggage guy is just discovering him (unless he called the cops before pulling him out? Huh?). Just odd.
Clark grabs Javier and jumps to superspeed right in front of a guy as cops arrive.
I'm sure that his secret identity is intact by now. I mean, just look at the times he's used powers in front of people on the KO Count. This is bloody ridiculous. Once in a while is forgivable as an accidental error. Here it's obvious and constant.
Clark tells the kid that the sheriff identified the body as his buddy. How? We don't know. When? We aren't shown.
Mountains in Kansas as they're driving back to the farm, which Clark does with the kid (endangering him unnecessarily) for reasons unknown.
Javier gets upset because he finds out his friend is dead (arbitrary tension) causing him to demand that Clark stop the car. Clark does, and it's right in front of the McNally farm, oh-so-coinci-ex-machinally.
Clark could have kept driving, but instead he chooses to stop in front of this dangerous farm, and then doesn't stop the kid when he gets out and starts running for the field, winning the "dumb as Clark" award.
I had to pause at this point, because something happened that was so incredibly horrible I had to, I couldn't stop laughing.
Javier runs from the truck, and Clark sprints after him at full speed, yelling, "JAVIER! JAVIER!"
He has trouble catching up with the kid.
Read that last sentence again.
That's why I had to pause. Clark Kent can't catch a kid. And not only is it bad that they indicate that, it's in a situation where if he doesn't catch this kid, this kid might die. Does Clark scan the ground for the crazy gopher? Does he grab the kid and haul him off from danger like he did not ten minutes before? No. He just lets him run, then watches him stand and lament his dead friend.
For this, Clark is dragged under the ground by ole man gopher. The guy flies up, beaten, and we see none of the fight, because hey, if the only substantial action piece in the show can't be crap, it isn't really Smallville now anymore, is it?
We cut to Martha going from staunchly against illegal immigration, knowing that it will tarnish what she's trying to do, to trying to pull some strings for a group of people who broke the law. Grand. And it's not really examined as a dilemma, it's just taken for granted that what she's doing is the right thing.
Lex is playing the piano again like a pro. How many of you remember that he once asserted he couldn't play, then magically could? At least that's still consistent.
And oh, boy! More Lana! Joy!
She comes back in from Amsterdam, stars in her eyes about money. She talks about how she cut in front of a whole bunch of people, and how much fun that was, how powerful it made her feel.
I immediately wonder why she didn't wait in line like everyone else if she's as amazing as everyone seems to indicate she is, but hey.
She talks about how she just used Lex's money and power to get the things that she wanted for herself, and then makes that okay, apparently, by telling Lex that she wants to now do good. Because this thought hasn't occurred to her yet. Oh, except for a few episodes ago when she tried to have a pet charity and it caused arbitrary tension. A whole plotline that's now apparently forgotten.
So what does she want to do? Save the whales? Feed the poor?
Nah, she just wants to solve the simple explicit plot device from this episode she just happened to see in the Daily Planet despite being vacationing in Amsterdam. Because we all know Lana seems like the kind of studious girl who would read the paper all the time and let nothing slip by her.
Too coincidental. Say it with me: CRAP.
And hey, let's take this coincidental plot device and see what we can use it for. Why would they give Lana an arbitrary reason to like Lex?
Oh yeah! So despite the fact that they've been broken up for most of a year and were hardly dating before, she can go over to Clark's house and call him a *@%# for trying to look out for her again! Unbidden, no less!
Chloe has a front page story in the Planet. Sorry, but even if she got all of the story herself and it was the most gripping story imaginable, they'd hand it off to a senior writer. You just can't write at 19 like you can at 25, period. Especially given her past.
Jimmy tries to tell Clark that he's his friend despite his love for Chloe in a scene that's supposed to be funny but falls flat because it's obvious Clark has no interest in Chloe (much to his suffering).
Chloe and Clark talk about how she can't think of anyone who does more for the world than Clark. Overdramatic hero-talk that stopped being original due to writing and stereotype a year ago.
Lana arrives, and hands off papers for Martha indicating that Luthorcorp is giving the migrant workers jobs. YAY!
Well, except for the fact that he probably had to fire a buttload of legal residents to do so, but hey. Lana's on a humanitarian roll.
Clark is played (and is) a d%#$ because he indicates that Lex is responsible and is only doing this to wash his hands of his responsibility.
Problem is, he has no responsibility.
Lana goes off on how Lex is always so truthful to her, while Clark always lies to her.
Problem is, she spent all of last season bursting in on Lex and telling him how much he lied to her. And Lex's lies endangered her life, whereas Clark's lies only emotionally angered her.
But hey, he never lies, because Lana said it. And Clark doesn't object to that statement, because he has no character in the face of Lana, he simply bows to whatever she says because the writers do to.
Clark indicates that Lex sent her as his messenger.
Lana interprets this to mean that he's calling her a puppet Lex can manipulate. No. He's simply saying that she's being treated like a messenger for Lex.
The proper refutation for this assertion is "Well, no. This was my idea. But I can see why you would think that. But don't think badly of Lex. He's changed."
That's civil and appropriate dialogue between these two. Instead we get: "I'm no one's puppet!" and then she turns and leaves without saying goodbye.
Bad writing, you've heard it a hundred times, they must know, but they persist anyway. OH BOY! PASSIVE AGGRESSION, ACTIVE AGGRESSION. All I need now to make myself know how original this show is would be a freak of the week next episode. And hey, for a change, let's have a low-profile guest star shilling something.
33.1, Lex wandering through his wasteland of evil, he's controlling them all, and taking captives. We've suddenly leapt from a guy who's still mostly good in respects (if intellectually curious) to a guy who's keeping people in dank cells and experimenting on them in a practical instant.
He's done some evil things before, but not like this. The leap is too broad. They did it so that they could justify Justice and some adversaries, no doubt, but I still don't buy it.
It can also still be argued, thanks to the plot offered in previous episodes, that Lex is simply trying to heal these people and bring them back into society. But because they use an AFI tune and because he's walking like a pimp, apparently that means he's evil for doing something rational in the world established for him.
Yeah, I can't say that in the end the message forwarded anything with regards to illegal immigration. If anything, it only strengthened irrational stereotype and gave us another crappy freak of the week episode, complete with Lana-centric coincidental nonsense and a complete derision of everything that makes Lex good. First he's portrayed as so emotional he can't think straight, then we see him coolly assembling an Injustice Society.
Do I buy it? No. Was it entertaining? A few times, but not really enough to even make up a substantial portion of the episode. Most of it was inconsistent garbage.
While I respect that they tried to bring a real-life issue into this series and thrust a moral message onto it in a relevant way, it failed to do so, descended into near-racism, and in the end made the real issue less interesting than a guy who can burrow underground, which is sad given all of the provocation that issue might allow.
In the end, Smallville is not pulling up from its nose dive. Looking at this on the surface I would have given it a 2.5. But given the continued poor performance, the utter failure of continuity of logic, and the empty plot-driven characters that still charge this world, I'm going to give this show yet another 1.
That's six this year. This year has had two fives, a three, and six ones. So far it's making season four look preferable. That is *%#$ing scary.
People say Justice will be worth it. Justice will make it all culminate and make up for the crap.
Seeing the parade of awful, Green Arrow style outfits walking towards the screen as a refinery explodes behind them, I have low expectations with high hopes.
We'll see. Either way, I'll still be checking out that AFI album. They seemed like Emo dopes last I checked, but the song at the end of the show makes me want to give it a look.
SUPER SHORT REVIEW:
You know Neal...I used to think you were a voice for Superman, but lately you've been selling out. I guess it happens to all of us, but I had hoped you'd keep your Superman creds forever.
At this point, I hope you never write a comic, and I hope you give up your pretense when it comes to being some know-it-all Superman fan. Obviously, you haven't progressed enough in your own life to really know what the REAL Superman fan wants today. Keep working on it though.
Give up on reviewing in the mean while...because no one reads them anymore anyway.
Point one: I've never asserted that I'm any more authoritative or a voice for Superman more than anyone else. I just step up there and offer my opinion because I can. What makes a reviewer more entitled than others to write about a decision? Nothing. He just finds a forum and takes it.
Point two: Selling out requires making money. It's part of the WORD. I have, to write for this page, accumulated approximately thirty eight thousand dollars in debt. I ask people to buy my books, but that's not selling out, particularly given that few of my tens of thousands of readers actually ever even visits my personal site, much less buys a book.
Point three: Selling out doesn't happen to everyone. It just happens to all of the people we see, by necessity. There are still people who struggle in quiet rooms for free, and I'm proud to count myself among them.
Point four: A REAL Superman fan wouldn't disparage another person for trying to live their dream. On this much I AM authoritative.
Point five: A REAL Superman fan, having a beef with another person, would actually confront that person like a man with a real name, not a fake email one cannot reply to. You've issued the effective equivalent of an attempted kidney punch from anonymity, so I refuse to take anything you say (not that you backed it up anyway) with any authority.
Point six: The day I give up on reviewing is the day I sell out, and the day I listen to cowards like you, so taking your advice is paradoxical.
Point seven: http://www.alexa.com/data/details/main?q=Superman+Homepage&url=http://www.supermanhomepage.com/sh-history/sh-1996/main.html. We are currently the 31, 411th ranked site on the internet in terms of traffic. Sounds bad, huh? Consider the number of sites on the net. If nobody's reading this site, how did we get an average of 100,000 hits per day?
Point eight: When you wrote this, I'd already written thirty comics. Fail.
Point nine: You're a troll, and making you look bad is fun. Your attempt at making me feel bad has only elicited humor in everyone who read your putrescent inefficient bile. So bug off to wherever all of you TRUE and REAL fans go that know something we don't, which is likely a mirror.
Rosana J wrote:
First of all, let me extend many belated thank yous. I've been reading your recaps for a year now, and I don't think I would have made it through season 4 without your thorough, sensical breakdown of the nonsense that transpired during that season (with the exception of 'Transference' which I thought was the one decent episode).
Thank you, Rosana. I agree, I loved Transference.
As I watched 'Static' last night, my mind froze on one particular moment that I'm hoping you choose to highlight in your analysis. The image of Lex and Lana in full kiss mode as the escapee from Level 33.1 whom Lex had just MURDERED was lying in the background.
Yeah, pretty telling for her character.
LOOK, IT'S AN (INAPPROPRIATELY TIMED)ROMANTIC BUNNY!
To me, that moment is reflective of their relationship - shadowed by the corpse that represents the paranoia they enable in each other with said corpse foreshadowing the death of this insane, implausible and completely discontinuous relationship.
Take care, Neal, and I'm glad to keep reading. Come payday this month, I'll be buying some of your work.
Bless you for that. I take about seven cents in royalties on each book I sell, and I constantly sell them at a loss for myself so that I can send them out. People will buy a book for 12.50, but not 16.50, which is what it costs to buy and mail one, so I usually soak up the postage to get a reader. I think in three years I've accumulated 12.50 in royalties, and they don't send a check until you hit 25 bucks. Har.
But I'm selling out, don't you know?
If you email me, I have copies on hand, which will save both of us money. I look forward to it.
Andrew D. Friden wrote:
Hey Neal,, since im saying that I BROKE THE ONE LETTER A YEAR RECORD woot!
Forgiven! And thanks.
Enough chit chat lets get down to business. This season is giving me promise im not gonna lie,,, season 5 was a return to some goodness but felt off but its nice to know that smallville is finally getting its grove back,,, but it seems as though their building it up like this will be the last season. I love clark sneezing and the look on his face when he blows the barn door off its like "woah crap!". Of course im waiting for the day when hes gonna fly and not get some BS explanation of why he could only do it that one time,,, but i mean truly fly.
I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you continue to.
RIP Pete & Jonathin,,, i had this conversation with my dad the other night when we were watchin smallville, and frankly i miss them and Jimmy Oleson and Green Arrow are cool and everything but the reason WHY superman is such a great story is it is full of colorful characters each with their own individual rich history and pallete they bring to the table. Jimmy cant ever take Pete's place as much as i love them both thiers just no way it can happen.
I agree. That's part of the reason that in my re-imagining of Season Four with Arune Singh we're...oh, wait. I'd better not say anything until it's closer to February.
Seems like Lionel is gunning for more power again,,, but who knows he keeps going to wierd ends of the spectrum. But he is as good as ever
Oliver Queen/Green Arrow: all those hostile take overs havent aged you a bit huh?
Lionel: Well yes you know something Olive,,,, perhaps i should give due credit to a nightly nip. I know you have an unpleasent history with my son,,, so enjoy your stay in Metropolis,,, no matter how breif it is.
Decent scene, actually.
awesome exchange between the Superhero & the Supervillian :) i also like
Lex: You found your way in you can find your way out,,, your not welcome here anymore
wow definetly an enemy now beyond any doubt.
Or sick of a guy coming on his property and calling him names...
I didnt get those syringe things were those suposed to be a take on the peformance enhancers that the green goblin and later the hobgoblin use in spiderman??
Likely. They rip off everything.
speaking of im tired of these cookie cutter villians yes their getting away from that a little bit in season 6 but not far enough i mean like i said i like rich characters but ive always had this problem with the green goblin and the hobgoblin, and the joker and the riddler from batman.
Okay for those of you who dont know the Green Goblin was Spiderman's first arch enemy and was killed in his effort to destroy Spiderman,,, now the Green Goblin's son gets the technology from his fathers Goblin suit and glider and becomes the Hobgoblin,,, which is the Green Goblin colored yellow but has all the same powers and skills and abillities as his predecesor except he ISNT killed in a dramatic battle with Spiderman.
In Batman the Joker has always been Batman's arch nemesis, because his jokes are deadly as they are funny and Batman doesent appreciate that kinda humour, being cold logical and efficent in what he does. Now the riddler on the same hand tells riddles that only amuse himself and Batman doesent appreciate that kinda entertainment so,,,,,, well you get the idea of what im saying.
True. Though it is noted the Hobgoblin thing is in the Ultimate Universe. In the regular 616 universe there was much more complexity. One of my favorite issues was the culmination of Harry's attacks, when he "dies." in 1994.
Okay watching this last episode,,, a little weaker but they all cant be awesome im suprised they kept the awesome streak up this long. That guy who saves clark,,, i think its the next justice league memember in fact my theroy is its Jon Jon'zz the Martian Manhunter,,, he looked like he had a similair outfit on with bright glowing orange eyes.
Alright well thats all I can think of at the moment peace out.
Take care, Andy. And thanks.
I feel that I have to talk about Lana. But really, where can I begin? First of all, Static. That episode infuriated me, because once again, Smallville is becoming all about her. I felt robbed, because really Clark was only in the episode for a minimal period of time. (Not to mention that the episode was really short. They thought we wouldn't notice?!)
Sadly, most don't, they just stare at the screen and take it for what it is. I believe, and this is a soapbox, but I really do believe that this is a large part of the reason that our country is falling into the crapper in terms of intelligent advocacy and private thought. The idiot box, or at least the attitude that accompanies it.
Which seems quite strange to me, since this show is supposedly about CLARK becoming Superman. So I just can't make out why, in the name of all that's holy, the writers decided that we needed to sit through an entire episode of Lana whining about the baby and worrying about Lex, who she's been angry with off and on for the past few episodes, by the way.
The honest reason is because the actress is a pretty girl, and, annoying or not to people with logic, any excuse to get a pretty girl onscreen is used or manufactured...part of that ridiculous lack of private thought mentioned above.
Not only all of this, but her character inconsistencies are becoming more and more painful. I just can't make out why the writers spent three years (I say 3 because the little innocent girl image only worked for me until the end of season 3) trying to build up Lana as this sweet little small town girl who is popular and pretty and kind, only to get her together with Lex Luthor and turn her into the very devil. Would Lana Lang of season three have condoned Lex doing illegal and unethical experiments on people just because they were unfortunate enough to have been infected by Kryptonite? I find it hard to beleive. Lana has never been a big fan of meteor freaks, but I can't believe that she would condone that. For me, that is one of the biggest character inconsistencies as of late.
The reason they're doing it is because Lex is the only other potential male love interest. They tried Jason, that failed miserably, so they killed Jason and made it Lex. She just can't be with Clark because they know it failed, so they're making it Lex, and when that fails, they'll make it Clark again, then the show will be over.
And then there's the pregnancy issue. First of all, I'm with you. It ruined Lex for me. They were pushing it by even having Lex be in love with Lana. They pushed it even further by pretending that Lana is in any way on the same intellectual level with Lex Luthor (I believe that Lionel even said that she was his intellectual equal or some BS like that). But the second she announced that she was pregnant and Lex reacted with pure unadulterated joy, they crossed the line. Because there is no frickin way that Lex Luthor would settle down with a woman who is so obviously beneath him in every way, get her pregnant, and then ask her to marry him. It's absoultely absurd!
If she's Lex's intellectual equal, how did she get knocked up at 19, and why does she have no job?
I'd never walk out on a show that I've invested six years into, but I'm done with Lana. I'm hoping against all hope that they kill her in childbirth. Anything to get her the hell off this show! If the writers set out to make the viewers hate Lana, they definately accomplished their goal. They need to start giving Chloe the respect she deserves and KILL LANA!
I would. Heck, I'd walk out on Stephen King if he stopped making good books. Produce or die is the mantra, and that's a fair one. It's why I never stop. But I won't stop this show for that same reason. These reviews are important to me, and I'm writing them for a kind, dedicated audience. The show might turn around.
Anyways, I just felt that I had to vent. And I knew that you, as a fellow Lana-hater would understand. I love your reviews. Can't wait to read what you had to say about Static.
David Wilkins wrote:
I would like to point out a few things. First, triple kudos to the film; it was hilarious. Second, these freaks are dumb. they should get the "Dumb as Clark" award. If you are in a secret lab where you have seen Lex Luthor, you know you are in his FATHER'S building, and the lab mysteriously disappears; why would you ask the person whom you kidnapped with no contact to the outside world where he put it. I kept saying to the TV "ASK LIONEL". third, I did like when Lionel reminded Chloe she was not in high school anymore and to use a different phrase than "meteor freaks". (But if they had some kind of continuity, this would not be Smallville) fourth, back to the 100th episode, Lana's rection to Clark telling her about his powers is so third season. if they had any continuity (is that a four-letter word to them?) she would have run away and fallen off the cliff. After seeing Clark do the things Zod's followers do she had an apostraphe;) instead of being scared and callinfg him a monster. Clark still would have not saved her and we would be in the same boat. oh well.
I'll say it again, this is Smallville.
Which, sadly enough, has a context behind that statement due to past performance.
P.S. I never was good at writing, so feel free to make any garammarical, puntuation, and sentence structure errors. sorry.
You're fine. I tend not to edit, mostly because with all the letters it would take forever, and it's about the ideas, not punctuation.
Mike (Bloodwynd) wrote:
I have watched the entire season of Smallville thus far. Well, actually, I've seen about every episode made. But, regardless, I am planning on sending the producers of this show a petition to kill Lana.
Many will enter, few will win.
Here is my rationale.
I have NEVER in my 32 F*C#%NG years seen any single female character in any TV or movie production that was more idiotic and whiney than this incarnation of Lana Lang. I am without a loss and the last two episodes have done nothing but to exacerabate that feeling to the ultimate Nth degree.
I've seen worse. But this is really, really bad.
Annette O'Toole didn't even play a Lana this horrible.
ZOMG! My love for Annette will never fade!
So who does this Lana love? Clark? No, he has too many secrets. Jason? No he died but also had too many secrets. Whitley? Dead but a waste of a presence on the show regardless. Lex? Yes because he has power and secrets but he is honest with her? What the hell did I just say cause I don't understand it either.
Whitley is my character's name. You're thinking Whitney. But I agree...
I like the fact that they are making Lex evil. About time. 6 seasons to do what could have been ultimately done after the first. Clark learning that there is more than Lana to save. That got old after season 2 but here we are in season 6 still clamoring for the love buds to get together. Yea...like that will ever happen again.
Oh, it will when they need more tension and have none. You watch.
I am firmly setting it in my mind that this indeed needs to be the last season. Not simply based on your reviews but because the show is getting to a point where nothing is making sense anymore and there is no character advancement other than the pregnant wh%#ebag Lana who is about as useless a character as ever.
According to Gough, this will likely not be the last season.
Patrick Beardsley wrote:
Really enjoyed your video--hole in one golf clap! You saw the Breakfast Club right? Johnny's clapping in response to Clair putting on her lipstick with her bra? Oh, yeah--that's a good clap too.
That deserved a standing...O?
I stopped caring about the show, you should just watch it for a giggle now, like I do, and the occasional power. Meh, the product placement of of the oreo was a joke, the hole shows a joke. I'm surprised one of your reviews hasn't been a one word or sentence repsonse--Nonsense!? (followed by a rating of .5) Well, on a positive note, I still enjoy reading your reviews, albeit negative ones, I get a kick out of it. Take care.
Thanks, Patrick! The one word review will likely happen at some point. I'm considering doing an all video one. We'll see.
I can't believe you missed probably the single biggest evolution of a character since the start of the show! It was subtle, but well done!
At the end of "Static"... Chloe goes to talk to Clark in the barn, and when she leaves, there's an Oreo. See? SEE!
CHLOE IS THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER! It's the only logical conclusion.
All these people thought/hoped she'd turn out to be Lois. Bet they didn't see THAT ONE coming.
ZOMG! I just crapped a taco.
Bruce Kanin wrote:
Re: SMALLVILLE "Static"
To Neal Bailey's next-of-kin,
I was sorry to read - or see - that Neal was so upset that he hung (or is it "hanged"? never got the, er, hang of that there dang English) himself - on YouTube of all places. I will greatly miss, amongst other things, Neal's SMALLVILLE reviews.
If you have a way of passing on a message to Neal, to wherever he has gone, please let him know a few things regarding his most recent review...
I was resurrected, as you can tell in the video above, by 33.1. But my mom says thanks...
Yes, the show has indeed jumped an entire Pacific Ocean of sharks, straight into a toilet. Characters are totally out-of-character now, and that makes me think that the writers just don't care any more.
Oh, they care, but not about the things that make up a good story...they care about keeping the people who watch passively, so they're pandering to people who are obsessive over Lana, shippers, and plotfiends.
One thing, though, that doesn't bother me is the Clark/Lana/Lex situation. It doesn't bother me that Lex proposed to Lana before Clark ever could/would. As a die hard comics aficionado, I know that Clark never proposed to Lana, anyway. In the Silver Age, he and Lana was just good friends. In the Byrne Age, Clark thought of Lana like a sister, even though she was in love with him - and knew he was Superguy.
I still prefer the modern take...I think it's good for Superman to have an unrequited love somewhere. It gives the whole schlocky, always down and out Clark a period of his life that makes up for his later act.
If you think about it, Chloe is really Lana from the Byrne Age of Superman. Like Lana from the Byrne Age, Chloe knows who Clark really is and is in love with him. Which means that SMALLVILLE's Lana is totally out-of-character and out-of-place in this series.
Yes. That's my objection.
Anyway, my sincerest condolences both to you, Bailey family, and SMALLVILLE.
Some time ago, when lamenting the horrible promotion the CW was doing for Smallville (pimping GA, umpteen triangles, and the non-existent romance between Clark and Lois) I made a wisecrack about the obviousness of using, you know, Supermanly stuff to advertise a show about Superman. Well, I guess this week the joke's on me. They showed us a trailer of Clark, Batista, and MM, but it turned out to be a 10-minute B story. The episode was all Lexana, but if they'd showed us that in the trailer, nobody would have watched.
Yes. They show the three seconds that look like it might be cool, and ignore the rest. It's never about the show, it's about the potentiality of the show.
Everybody and his brother are already asking but let me ask too: this season, why are they treating Clark as no better than an ensemble character in this show? The ratings spikes this season are correlated with Clark-centric, mytharc episodes such as "Zod" and "Fallout", NOT with GA or Lexana.
And always will be.
I have been patient so far with all the sidetracks, because some time has to be devoted to setup for the season, and they actually did use GA well as a foil for Clark, but they've also been making Clark look weak for no good reason, exemplified by this week's episode. Maybe there were logistical reasons for Clark's minimal screen time in "Static", but that didn't mean they had to pair the reduced screen time with a story that made him look inept. He has several well established abilities that he could have used to track and defend himself against the Zoner, but nearly all the special effects went to the guest characters AGAIN. Even if they wanted to have him lose the fight to set up the anxiety he shows in the loft scene with Chloe, they could still have had him put up a game struggle, which would have gained the audience's sympathy. The only points I can give the writers here is for the focus on MM's flight to convey Clark's yearning to fly (there's only one power here Clark is dreaming of). I know the story has to veer back towards the core Clark-Chloe-Lex-Lana characters because the subsidiary and guest characters are fast using up all their contracted appearances, but I don't know that this means Clark will be treated any better in the back half of the season.
True. And that still doesn't alleviate the fact that right now, Clark should be flying. He's an adult.
Lex also seems like a guest character in this show, even with all the screen time devoted to Lexana. You'd think that if this season were about the rise of Lex Luthor, we'd actually see that journey, starting with the aftermath of the Zod possession.
In a sane world.
Clearly, a powerful alien stealing his body and trying to destroy Earth gives him a strong motivation for losing all perspective and rationalizing all kinds of extreme measures as a supposed defense. I would have loved to see a scene with either Lana or Lionel explaining to Lex what happened during the Zod possession, so we could see what state of mind that put Lex in. I would have loved to see scenes showing the dangerous steps Lex is taking toward the dark side with Level 33.1.
We just got that, but alas, it was half a minute with no character development or rationale involved.
But time and time again, we see Lex only through his interactions with Lana, which are alternately like watching paint dry or listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. Only the handful of scenes with Lionel have any electricity, because they take the focus off Lana and put it where it should be -- on Luthor machinations. Because of what they've chosen to show us, I have to conclude that the writers think that the most important thing about Lex's journey to the dark side is Lexana rather than anything sinister that's going on in the lab. That's bizarre not only because it's bizarre, but because Lana doesn't appear to have any effect on what Lex is doing. I know this because Lana changes her mind every week about his research, and it doesn't alter Lex's course. Nevertheless, if we contrast their happy "Lexmas" relationship against the current reality, I suppose the idea is that Lex will lose Lana in this timeline because he's evil. But what does evil have to do with it? Once Lana says that the Level 33.1 experiments are okay, that marks her as a Mengele foot soldier. So at this point, what could Lex possibly do to turn her against him?
I think what will happen is Lex will do one thing that makes her realize he's been a @%#$, something not incredibly big or irrevocable, and then she'll run back to Clark. Watch for it.
But wait. Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, and as of "Vessel", we're supposed to consider Lex's turn to evil a done deal, even though we've so seldom actually seen him do evil that half the viewers still think he's a punk compared to Lionel. Maybe we're getting the steady diet of Lexana because it's Lana who's really important to the writers, and Lex is just the backdrop to the so-called "corruption of good".
I think that's exactly it.
Not only is it appallingly bad judgment to put Lana ahead of Lex as a character, this isn't even a coherent character arc. She's not putting up any fight to speak of against the corruption, just being contrary week to week until she tosses aside all the moral issues because she somehow thinks that she wuvs Lex. It's as if this character immediately embraces the moral outlook of the man she's with, because she has none of her own.
She is ready to rationalize anything her man does, even human experimentation, as long as he is "honest" with her. That is so comprehensively sick that I wouldn't even put it on a teen-oriented show.
Nor would I. Agreed, and thank you.
michael v. wrote:
On the superman rant, the part about jason's powers, you never mention the most likely possibility that he didn't even know he had the powers and that his mom being in danger brought it out in him, like how superman didn't know he was invulnerable until he got trampled by the bull, or more importantly when his mom was in danger and he discovered his strength lifting a car off of her. lois knew he was superman's son but had no idea that he had any powers (thus the shocked looks). even jason seemed surprised at first. this all seems obvious to me but was nowhere to be found in your bible-long rant. quite the eversight.
Quite the eversight indeed. Such an eversight it had absolutely no bearing on the plot or its evaluation at all...whether he knows he has powers or doesn't, how does that change the plot or my evaluation?
Roy F. Tottie wrote:
This wee e-missive is in response to your question about fans and continuity. I will not deny that I am more than a tad confused myself. For several years Byrne's reboot stood inviolate (although Rao knows subsequent writers did some really impressive pretzeling to kind of sort of bring things back into continuity that were once forbidden). Then came Birthright. I like Mark Waid. I enjoyed Birthright well enough. My problem was with the mealy mouthedness of the company and by association Waid. You no doubt have access to a great many more resources than I, but it seemed that every time I would read about BR and the question of continuity would come up, they would sound like they were having their cake and eating it too. Trying to claim that BR did not replace the Byrne Reboot. To me the story doesn't work unless it's a replacement.
Actually, my resources, which consist of email addresses, considerably shy away and ignore or dodge any Birthright related question, even off the record. Likely for the reasons you mention. They're trying to let time kill it. They don't realize we're comic fans. We remember crap from 1939.
Also in genera it seems like DC wants to tell off the wall continuity breaking stories, yet at the same time have a cohesive, singularly continuitied "universe". Take for example the differences between Morrison's Batman and Dini's Detective.
Yes. It's having cake and eating it too without the courage to rationalize it in a coherent framework that would require effort and eat into profits for the sake of story.
For myself I've given up on overarching continuity. If Batman's a bastard in one comic line, and an old softy in another fine. If Superman is an uberperfect paragon in one line and a hyperpowered everyman in another fine. Where I will still lose my temper is if they can't even keep continuity within a single title or storyline. I don't feel asking for that is asking for too much.
I think they should either openly admit it's as you state or choose a continuity and stick to it. Either way, I will judge by a good story over anything else.
Will Sabel Courtney wrote:
I weep for Superman today.
Well, not literally. But close. There's that sort of slight itchiness in the corners of my eyes, the one that's the precursor to the precursor to crying. The emotion's there, let's say, and it's only in part due to the 3 Doors Down Acoustic album playing on iTunes right now.
Why? Because my Superman is gone.
The Man of Steel who was my hero has been removed from the world. Over the course of the last year or two, he's been slowly, carefully, but deliberately removed from existence. And it's really sad. It's sad because it feels like I'm one of the few people who noticed; sadder because it feels like I'm one of the even fewer who cared.
The Superman I respected, I cared about, I wanted to be was the Superman of Byrne, of Stern, of Loeb and Rucka and yes, even of Kelly. What made him special was not just his alien heritage, but also how he chose to see himself. He did not see himself as Kal-El, last son of a dead world trying to get by on a chunk of rock under an alien sun. In his mind, he was Clark Kent, proud son of two lower-middle class Kansas farmers whose birthplace in no way diminished his love for the only home he'd ever known. His morals, his convictions and beliefs, did not stem from a higher sensibility due to his belonging to an advanced race; they came from his loved ones, from living life as one of us and finding out what was right and wrong the same way any of us humans do.
He knew what it was like to live life as a human being, as for the first part of his life, he had effectively been one of us. His powers did not begin to even show up until he was well on the way to adulthood. As a boy, Clark felt the pain of bee stings, the agony of broken bones, the heat of a summer day and the cold of a winter night. He knew what it was like to work hard, to put every bit of physical force at his disposal into a task and still be unable to do it. He was one of us. And the life he'd lived before he came into his amazing gifts made them all the more special, because he knew what it was like to live like everyone else.
And even then, he did not instantly throw on a cape and become a figure larger than life. For years after he'd learned of his powers, he kept them a secret, using them in private or only in matters of emergency. So far as he was concerned, he wasn't an alien who didn't fit in - no more than any of the rest of us. He was just a man with extraordinary gifts. It was only once he'd long since become a man, come into his powers and become comfortable with who he was and what he wanted to do in life, that he chose to reveal himself to the world in a secret costumed identity intended to distract people from the idea that, in fact, maybe the hero who soared through the canyons of metal was the same man who lived in the apartment next door and kept asking them to turn the TV down at night.
But now? Today's Superman doesn't have any of that anymore. He was lifting tractors at three and flying through the sky at six. He never grew up knowing pain, knowing what it's like to be human, the agony and the ecstacy that comes with mortality and the simple things in life. He was always an alien, from the day he landed on our world, and no matter how many times he may dive through a red sun and lose his powers, he will always see himself a different from the rest of us inside.
His birth father still exists, albeit in electronic form, to remind him that he is not a human being, but rather, a child from a better world sent to save them from themselves. (The sheer arrogance of that statement is staggering, and it's not Superman.) His adoptive parents, the ones who put all theirÊtime and effort into raising him, may or may not still be alive - and how much they mean to him we can only speculate. It's hard for a man to have two fathers of equal importance.
No longer is Clark Kent a man of his own importance, someone who has to deal with everyday life like the rest of us but has the added advantage of being able to leap into the sky and not come down when he needs to unwind from a hard day. Now, he's once again just a bad disguise, a combover and horn-rimmed glasses in a cheap suit. How, again, does someone like that - someone with so little apparent ambition and self-confidence - manage to become a Pulitzer-prize winning star reporter for one of the world's greatest newspapers? Did he super-hypnotize Perry White in his interview into giving him his job, or does he have to go around kissing everyone at 5 p.m. every workday so they forget about the actual work he had to put into his job?
The only thing that he still has, the last remnant of the old Superman, is his relationship with Lois Lane. They're still married, thank god, and still in love. But who does Lois Lane love these days? Do they honestly expect us to believe she fell in love with the cheap suit that is Silver Age Clark Kent? Or did she fall in love with Kal-El of Krypton, and only agree to pursue a relationship with Clark after he revealed that he'd been smirkingly disguised as her nerdy co-worker all along?
Perhaps some of these problems will be addressed as time goes on. Perhaps not. I can only hope that, at some point, the writers and editors and producers will remember that people want to be able to relate to their heroes, not just stare up at them and feel insignificant. Every so often, it seems, the Man of Steel undergoes a chronic redefining; from the original, gritty Golden Age Superman to the godlike, omnipotent Silver Age Superman and finally the human, down-to-Earth hero of the modern era. It seems like the pendulum is swinging away from that now, back towards the past. I guess all I can hope for is that it'll swing back again sometime in the future - and that I'll be the one to catch it when it reaches its zenith and hold it there for a while.
Staggeringly persuasive and well-argued. I have nothing glib to say. As much as I like what Johns is doing in terms of character, I can't argue against any of your points. From Smallville to the comics, I agree, the Superman I grew up with, one of continuity, and humanity over power, is largely gone in favor of the archetype. I don't know how to handle that either.
Maybe in twenty years when this guard is gone, I'll get a chance to. Har.
Daag Alemayehu wrote:
I think it's finally time to accept the fact that Smallville is not three hours from Metropolis. I know they stated this specifically in an episode some time back (I can't remember which one, can you?), but other than that one mention, everything points to the two cities being much, much closer.
No offense, but like what? It's been mentioned in interviews, in multiple episodes, in print, and it's been flat-out shown on the screen as at least a good solid hour's drive. Unless they say the distance is shortened, I have no reason to believe it has.
I've felt this way ever since the scene (again, I can't remember the exact episode) where Clark and Lana sat atop the windmill and you could see Metropolis - VERY CLEARLY - in the distance. I don't care how flat Smallville is, there's no way they could have done that if Metropolis really was three hours away. Tonight's episode ("Subterranean") convinced me that Smallville and Metropolis couldn't be more than a half hour drive apart. I mean, would Chloe really live in Smallville if it was three hours from Metropolis?
They pointed out that that was incorrect, too, the creators, and indicated it was three hours away still.
I don't think she could. That's why I point it out as hilarious.
So yes, there is a continuity problem. But that problem is that they made ONE reference to the cities being three hours apart when everything else says they're much closer. Throw out that one faulty reference and voila! Problem solved. Doesn't that at least make it much easier to stomach the constant driving back and forth between Smallville and Metropolis that we see?
No, it wasn't one. It was multiple occasions, both from Gough, in commentaries, in several episodes, it was all over the place. And I'm sure if I went through the pain to ask a creator, they'd still say it was three hours, then laugh at their own inconsistency, because that's the attitude they've taken thusfar when this stuff is brought up, as opposed to working on it.
Bruce Kanin wrote:
It started out as an A - maybe an A+, and then...well, TV series as a whole can "jump the shark", but here was a single episode that leaped the finny fish all by itself. It jumped right down to a C-, and that's probably being generous.
It started out as a good story - not all that original, but good for "Smallville" and definitely a Job for Superman. I'm talking about the mistreatment of illegal aliens at the bad guy's farm. This was real good - but unfortunately, read on, in THE BAD.
Clark and Martha's argument about illegal aliens was good to see - a nice conflict that mom and son rarely have, but it became even more interesting when Clark reminded his foster mom that he's the ultimate illegal alien. Nice.
I also liked Clark's feeling like he was a kindred spirit with the kid, and wanting to protect him. Kind of a combination of Clark being an orphan - and his future role as a protector. Again, not original - it's been done before on the show, but it was nice here. Say, how come Clark didn't make breakfast for us viewers?
Clark's use of his x-ray vision in this episode was nicely done - first to find the kid hiding in the barn, and second to find the bodies on the farm. Say, when will his x-ray vision improve to seeing more than skeletons? They should graduate to he x-ray vision look that "Adventures of Superman" had.
Jimmy bringing whipped cream for Chloe - a big LOL.
An episode with such promise - it had to deteriorate quickly, because this, after all, is "Smallville". Yes, yet another Kryptonite-spawned Freak of the Week. Farmer Guy turns out to be Evil Gopher Guy - almost like an escapee from the movie and TV series "Tremors". Did they need to make him a Freak? Couldn't he have just been a rifle-wielding bad guy? But NOOOO, he had to be infected by meteor rocks. GAAAAA!
What evidence did Clark have that Lex was behind the dead bodies at the farm? None. Yet he bursts in on the Luthor Mansion (well, at least this time he was "let in") and makes wild accusations that turned out to be false (Lex didn't bury bodies at the farm - he DID experiment on Evil Gopher Guy, but that's another story). Anyway, this scene was contrived - just to further the contrived rift between Clark and Lex - and more recently, Clark and Lana.
Clark needs more training on protecting what will be his secret identity. He thoughtlessly exposes his powers to the kid. Now we have yet another person who knows that Clark is Superguy. If the writers had half a brain, they would have had Clark use his invisible heat vision on the police car tires in the scene where Clark is rescuing the kid, who was a stowaway on the bus to see his mom in Granville.
And when Clark super-speeded the kid away from the scene, to his pickup truck, why didn't the kid burn from friction? In the Silver Age, Superman would protect folks with his indestructible cape. In the Byrne Age, it could be argued that Superman's aura would protect people, although that hasn't been really stated in the comics and may not be forgotten, anyway, given all the changes that have gone on there.
When the bodies were being uncovered at the farm and Evil Gopher Guy mentioned something about Clark and the kid, why didn't the Deputy get suspicious that Clark was harboring the kid - an illegal alien? And why wasn't the Deputy curious about how Clark got the tip?
The Clark-Lana relationship has evolved into The Absurd.
Hey, re: the town of Granville that was mentioned and shown briefly in this episode. This is from Wikipedia: "In issue #13 of the Superman/Batman series (2004), Smallville is mentioned as being adjacent to the (equally fictional) town of Granville, Kansas. The name Granville comes from the 2000s television series Smallville (TV series); Smallville is filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, which was called Granville until it was renamed in 1886, and Granville Street (a major arterial road in the city) as well as HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granville_Island" \o "Granville Island" Granville Island (a small, man-made peninsula often mistaken for an island, serving as a market and tourist attraction) still retain the name. (The nearby rural suburban town of Cloverdale stands in for downtown Smallville in the series.)" Pretty cool, eh? OK, maybe not...
The "CW Clip Download" segment wasn't as annoying as the other nonsense last time around with those "CW segments".
So now Lex has his own Arkham Asylum - 33.1. Cool. I think. Maybe.
Well, like "Heroes" (which continues to out-soar "Smallville" by light years), no new episodes for awhile, but they did show a clip of the new Justice League (Clark, Cyborg, "Flash", Aquaman and Green Arrow). They seemed to be strolling forward in that deliberate fashion, just like on the JLA cartoon. And they almost seemed to be wearing some semblance of their future uniforms, but I'd have to go back and check that again. I'm both looking forward to that episode and dreading it, because the "Smallville" writers will no doubt destroy "The World's Greatest Heroes". Say, shouldn't the Martian Manhunter be in that crew?
Awesome, Bruce! You'll have to explain the thing of Heroes to me at some point. I did what folks asked, and watched it, but I've gotta be honest about it. I don't see why everyone loves it so much. It's intriguing, but it's not BADOW, like say, House or Lost...
Anyway, see you guys in January! I'm gonna be 27 on the 22 nd, and I've got a novel to finish before my age turns.
SubterraneanReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
What to say about the last Smallville of 2006?
Well I don't really have anything bad to say about it. It certainly was not the best episode ever but it was a pretty good tale about Clark Kent standing against the forces of Evil.
If I had one knock in this episode it would have to be the scene between Clark and Lex. Not that it was badly acted or even that the dialog was a problem. It just felt un-needed. It was almost as if someone, somewhere said, "hey, we need a Clark/Lex scene somewhere." It just felt tacked on. It ended up just being another accusation fest that really did nothing to advance the plot.
Looking past that slip up though we had a pretty good episode on our hands. Clark finds someone in need and does what he can to help the boy even when others would not. The villain turns out to be something/someone only Clark Kent can stop which really helped to sell the story.
There was also some real good moments with Jimmy Olsen in this one. I really like the chemistry between Chloe and him. Alison Mack and Aaron Asmore really work well together. This makes that romantic subplot really click and I am enjoying watching it play out. I was also extremely amused by Jimmy confronting Clark with his mistaken assumptions. Clark's clueless reaction was simply priceless and really the highlight of the episode.
The final shot with Lex in the new 33.1 lab was fantastic. It gave me shivers down the spine. Lex has something really bad cooking up in that lab and I for one am really looking forward to finding out what that villainous plot is. Why? Because the more villainous the plot, the sweeter it is when our future Superman puts a stop to it.
So anyway what to score this one? I am going to have to go with about average. Admittedly it was a standard "freak of the week" episode but it still was an entertaining adventure of young Superman. It highlighted some really nice things about how the character works in this world they built and there were no glaring issues that took away from the story.
So I am going to go with 3 out of 5 groundhogs. Call it a B-.
Now if I understand things correctly this is the last one until after the new year. So I'd like to take a moment to wish you folks a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays if you happen to celebrate something else, or a wonderful start to winter if you celebrate none.
Oh one last thing. CW was kind enough to show a little preview for the rest of this season combined with highlights from the first half at the end of this episode. I am not going to spoil any of that here but there is one shot in that clip that made every ounce of my fanboyness just go nuts. I am certain you'll know it when you see it. Let me just say that I am really looking forward to the rest of this season.
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